In several elementary schools throughout the Quad-City area, at least 10 percent of the students are chronically absent each year, meaning they miss at least one-tenth of the school year.

National data show that chronically absent students are less likely to be reading by third grade and less likely to graduate high school.

Attendance habits form early. Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten are almost four times as likely to continue to have attendance problems through the higher grades.

Students who were chronically absent in kindergarten:

• Score 20 percent lower in reading and math in the higher grades

• Are twice as likely to have to repeat a grade

• Are twice as likely to be suspended before the end of seventh grade

In the early grades, chronic absence often has little to do with truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, or simply because their parents don’t understand how quickly absences can add up.

Missing just two days of school each month doesn’t seem like a lot. But if a student misses two days of school each month for the entire school year, that’s 10 percent of the school year, and he or she is chronically absent.

And this is not just a school problem. People, who have bad attendance habits in school, are more likely to have those same bad habits once they enter the work force, which in turn, makes it harder to keep a job or to be promoted to higher-paying positions. The local trade unions state that poor attendance habits are one of the most common reasons why candidates fail to complete their apprenticeship programs.

Leaders from throughout the Quad-Cities community are joining a nationwide Call to Action, and pledging to make improved attendance a top priority for this school year.

We are calling on the whole community to help. If we want the Quad-Cities to continue to grow and prosper, each of us needs to do our part to make sure our children benefit as much as possible from the educational opportunities our community provides them.

What can you do to help the children in your neighborhoods, in your extended families, in your congregations, get to school on-time, every day?

Dr. Mike Oberhaus, Superintendent, Rock Island/Milan School District

Dr. Jim Spelhaug, Superintendent, Pleasant Valley Community School District